Hunting for the people of Idemili wasn’t for sport or for sheer pleasure, hunting was a way of life. There in the ecstatic tenderness of the gleaming moonlight, with the unapologetic calmness of the night, the valiant hunters of Idemili venture into the wild, with so much courage to battle and hunt the greatest and wildest of beasts all BUT the python. The people of Idemili were guided by a hunter’s code. Unlike their counterparts in the neighboring villages, the hunters’ code of Idemili revolved not only around the hunter’s ways of life and conduct, but most especially the codes binding on what they hunt, where they hunt, and why they hunt. Unlike the rest of the Igbo tribes that hunt every sort of animal, either for food or sport, the hunters of Idemili were different and the most important of all laws was, to NEVER harm a python. Their reasons were enshrined in the myths and stories that have been passed down and told orally through generations. The pythons of Idemili are a inseparable and sacred part of their existence. Any man that harms a Python, risked his own life and must appease the gods as well as other members of the python he had taken from. For many tribes, it was hard to fathom but for the Idemili people especially the hunters, it was a way of life.

Ebuka lay on the floor in amazement as he watched the older men by his side crawl with their spears firmly positioned in their hands. The hunt was led by the fiercest hunter of the village who so happens to be his father. Ebubedike Also known as the eye of the python, arched his back in a stance that Ebuka had never seen before. He watched in awe as his father crawled in front of him. The Idemili hunters, clothed themselves in the skillful camouflage of leaves such that in the night light, they were indistinguishable. “The key to catching them is to be as silent as you possibly can”. Ebubedike whispered without sparing his son Ebuka a glance. He changed his position so that both feet were squatted like a frog and his hands firm on the floor like that of a crocodile. His trained gaze set on the warthog before them. Ebuka watched as his father gave multiple hand signals to the other hunters crawling beside them. He had no idea what the message was but every movement made by these men thrilled him. Suddenly, his father got up and quickly ran to a nearby tree with a quiet that marveled him. Another hunter crawling beside Ebuka did the same with so much speed. He got up and ran to another tree on the other side of the forest. With them were long spears and a very thick rope. They hid so well that in the bright light of the bulk moon of July, they were still very much impalpable from the trees. They gave another hand signal, which made the other hunters crawl forward. Ebuka joined them as they crawled forward. As they got closer to the animal, his sight got clearer. He let a restrained gasp of awe escape his lips as his eyes bulged out of place. This was unlike any ordinary warthogs he had seen before. This animal was humongous. It was almost the size of a hippo its body was thick with so much hair, Its tusks looked huge and sharp. Ebuka couldn’t help staring at the beast as he crawled closer to the animal. They had gone a few feet when they received another signal. Everyone around Ebuka lay completely on the floor their belly touched the floor as they crawled forward slowly. Ebuka joined them his stomach on the floor as he crawled forward.

Suddenly, he felt a tingle on top of his hands. He looked at his hands and noticed that he had crawled into a termite’s nest. Ebuka couldn’t help himself for he yelped out so loud as he violently scratched the termites off his hands. He immediately regretted his action because the warthog before them immediately took to the hills. The hunters had no choice but to abandon their camouflage as they chased it. Throwing their spears as it ran for safety. The animal was fast. So fast that Ebuka couldn’t keep up. His Father and the rest of the hunters didn’t tire out. They chased after the animal with a speed that Ebuka could only wish for himself. He tried to keep up with the chase but after a few minutes, he couldn’t anymore. They were just too fast. Their long legs were all too aware of the jungle and know where to place their foot. Ebuka fell to his feet panting like a wounded animal. He could only watch from a distance, the men chasing after the animal till his eyes couldn’t pick them out anymore. Ebuka’s eyes stung with tears he couldn’t help it anymore. He placed his hands on his face hopelessly trying to block the tears but failed as his eyes burst open with tears. “It was my fault” Ebuka finally let out. “How stupid can you be?” scan a weakling like you be a son of Ebubedike? You…you’re a disgrace!” Ebuka filled with a wave of immense anger flung his spear to a nearby tree. But on hitting the tree, a yelp ensued, followed by a low growl. Immediately Ebuka understood what was going on. He wasn’t the only hunting party in the forest this night. And to these hunters, he is prey. Ebuka instantly took off and immediately, his predators followed chasing after him with tremendous speed. Wolves so many of them, hounded after Ebuka their howls, like war cries, were deafening. Ebuka ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, but the faster he ran, the more he felt outran. The wolves were gaining on him with every passing second. Ebuka suddenly stumbled on a rock and before he could catch his balance, he somersaulted into a valley, straight to a large tree. Ebuka tried Standing but screamed instead. His leg was broken. In a flash, the wolves were in the valley. Their teeth gleamed in the bright light of the moon. They barked and growled as they writhe closer to him. With such skillfulness, they changed formation and suddenly the wolves surrounded the massive tree where Ebuka sat confined in. A wolf let out a loud bark and immediately, the whole pack of wolves charged straight to Ebuka. All he could do was close his eyes as he waited for his eminent demise when out of nowhere, he heard a squirm. Followed by long incessant winning from his predators. Ebuka’s eyes were still shot closed. His heart threatened to burst through his ribs as it beat like a talking drum. The squirming sound immediately turned into a slithering sound. So close that Ebuka couldn’t help opening his eyes. When he did, he wished he hadn’t opened them. because he locked eyes with something even more dangerous than hungry wolves. Ebuka found himself in the middle of a Python. Its skin so thick that it felt like a huge branch of a tree. It was longer than anything that he had ever seen before. It coiled himself with the tree Ebuka rested on that its body served as a fence shielding him from the voracious wolves. He watched as the hungry wolves tried to attack but every attempt made, was futile. The reptile’s reflex was beyond fast. It immediately gave a counterattack for every attempted strike. The wolves kept trying, their attack well-coordinated. They scratched and duck away from the snake’s attack but the python refused to give up its stage. Instead, he kept on fighting back. Even as it bled.

Unexpectedly, a spear from nowhere impaled one of the wolves to the ground. The action was met by a quiet that was deafening. Even breathing felt like too much noise to Ebuka. The animals stood in silence trying to determine what was going on. Another spear flew straight to another wolf piercing through its neck, like a knife through butter. This is followed by a howl. The wolves ran for their lives. As hunters burst through the surrounding bush. They through more spears impaling more of them, while just a few managed to escape. Ebuka watched from the fence of skin before him as his Father and the rest of the hunters chased after the wolves. Ebubedike, Ebuka’s father, walked so close to the tree. The serpent was still in her defense. When he presumed he has gotten close enough, he fell to the ground and bowed his head to the ground. “Thank you so much, my friend, thank you for saving my son”. Ebubedike cried out. ” I would have died if anything had happened to him. Thank you great one”. Rapidly the slithering creature released his hold on Ebuka, and slowly crawled away into the darkness.

Ebuka never forgot that night. He never forgot the desperate look the serpent had deep in its eyes. The python risked its own life to save him from those savage wolves. As the days passed to months and the years to decades, Ebuka never for once forgot his encounter with the python. And he resolved deep in himself to never hurt these animals. Especially now that he was a hunter just like his father. With the title “The heart of the python”, He had resolved to live up to that name. To always follow the hunters’ code.

Author: Micheal Asubiojo

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